Nicola Sturgeon has warned care homes are being affected by a “rising tide” of coronavirus as she confirmed the easing of restrictions has been postponed again.
Scotland experienced a further three Covid deaths and a further 668 positive cases in the last 24 hours and the most recent estimates put the R number as high as 1.7.
Updating MSPs at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said plans to reopen indoor sports complexes, soft play areas, certain live events and sports stadia on October 5 would have to be cancelled.
She also signalled that MSPs would be given the chance to vote on whether a so-called circuit breaker lockdown should be imposed to coincide with the October school holidays.
I would simply point out the fact, unfortunately, we are again in a rising tide of Covid where we are starting to see cases again in care homes.”
Under the original lockdown exit strategy, it had been hoped facilities like sports complexes and soft play areas would come back into use on September 14. But that indicative date was abandoned as the spread of the virus accelerated.
Ms Sturgeon said the restrictions would be reviewed again on October 15 and if there was a need to take further action to combat the virus in the meantime she would “not hesitate” to do so.
The impact of the virus on care homes was raised at First Minister’s Questions when Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called on Ms Sturgeon to do more to relax the constraints on visitors hoping to see elderly relatives.
Ms Sturgeon said no-one wanted to “delay unduly” on care home visits, but the decisions had to be the right ones.
“I would simply point out the fact, unfortunately, we are again in a rising tide of Covid where we are starting to see cases again in care homes,” the first minister said.
“We want to make sure we have all of the appropriate protections in place so that we don’t see a repeat of the experience in care homes that we had earlier in the year.”
In the early part of the pandemic the virus swept through care homes, causing hundreds of deaths amid widespread concern about a lack of testing and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
According to the most recent National Records of Scotland figures, of the 4,236 Covid deaths to date, 46% related to deaths in care homes.
Parliamentary approval for circuit breaker lockdown
Ms Sturgeon was tackled by Labour leader Richard Leonard over the changing Covid guidance for students.
Mr Leonard argued this was “no way to govern” and asked if the government will seek the consent of parliament before introducing a “circuit breaker”.
Ms Sturgeon answered: “Yes, I will give an undertaking that where it is possible we will seek to bring things to parliament in advance.”
But the first minister added that sometimes the government had to act quickly and flexibly when the virus was putting lives at risk.
The 668 new coronavirus cases represented 10.8% of newly tested individuals, up from 10.3% the previous day.
Greater Glasgow and Clyde accounts for 244 of these cases, with 166 in Lothian and 123 in Lanarkshire.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The estimate today confirms our view that the R number is currently above one, and it is possibly as high as 1.7.
“That partly reflects the impact of the outbreaks we’ve seen in the past two weeks, including in student accommodation, but as a point of perspective it’s also worth stressing that, because this estimate, as the R number always does, relies on past data, it doesn’t yet take any account of any impact of the new measures we announced last week.”
Measures brought in last week include a national ban on household visits, apart from a limited range of exceptions.
She added: “We are postponing the route-map changes for which we had previously given an indicative date of October 5.”
Currently, there are 154 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, up by 15 in 24 hours. Of these patients, 17 are in intensive care – up two from the previous day.